Forty-two year-old mum Mel Bound took Bristol by storm when she started up the hugely popular running group for mums This Mum Runs. From simply posting a shout out on Facebook for a ‘rusty’ running buddy, Mel has now created and inspired a group of nearly 600 running mums. Invited by Sport England to join its national campaign, This Girl Can, as the faces of its local campaign Bristol Girls Can, the This Mum Runs girls are now recognised faces in the city, with images and films of the girls displayed across the city centre. Now keen to take on their first trail race, the This Mum Runs ladies will be hitting Blaise Castle next weekend to take on our WR10K Bristol race. We speak to Mel about starting up the group, the ladies involved, and what they get up to each week.
How did This Mum Runs begin?
It started a little bit by accident! After I had my kids, I did no exercise for nearly three years. I’d badly injured my back resulting in surgery, then just lost all of my confidence and eventually just felt really unfit and unmotivated.
Before kids, I had been pretty fit and ran regularly. I started running when I was ten and it had always been part of my life. I’d even met my husband through running. So it got me thinking; if I was finding it virtually impossible to drag myself out of the door, how must other mums be feeling?
Last September, I decided enough was enough; I put a shout out on a local mum’s Facebook community looking for a ‘slightly rusty’ running buddy. Within ten minutes, 75 mums had replied. Within two hours we had well over 100! IT WASN’T JUST ME!
So I set up a Facebook group and called it This Mum Runs. Then I started organising weekly runs with the help of some other local mums. In January, I offered to run a Couch to 5K programme for a group of mums who wanted to start running but didn’t know how. And from there the group has just grown and grown!
What sorts of challenges did the ladies face when training to run their first 5K?
The first Couch to 5K training group started in January but I’ve learned that every group feels the same at the start. Common challenges include lack of confidence and self belief; mums’ guilt at actually having some time to themselves; feeling really unfit and worrying about looking stupid or being the slowest; feeling really knackered by the end of the day once the kids were in bed; and even the weather – for the first course it was January and really dark and cold!
Once we started running Couch to 5K groups there was a big change. Mums taking part realised that when they got home from work tired, the kids were screaming and they really didn’t want to get off the sofa, that there were other mums out there feeling the same yet are still managing to go. There were basically no excuses! They realised it is OK to find some ‘me’ time each week without feeling guilty. Just being able to get outside, exercise and share stories with other mums made everyone feel more positive, like they were all in it together.
The groups themselves and the wider This Mum Runs’ Facebook community provide wonderful support to everyone starting out, with lots of encouragement on the tough days and celebration of the tiniest of achievements. It is really wonderful to watch!
What do your training sessions involve? When do you train?
We now have training groups in North and South Bristol and run sessions on Wednesday evenings and Sunday morning at times that fit around the kids. These sessions always involve a good warm-up, are really varied and are tailored to fit all abilities. We try and take groups to areas of the city they might not have ever been to, with different terrains and different challenges. Tonight we organised a ‘North-South Mash Up’, where the two groups set off at the same time from different locations, then met in the middle and ran together for a while. It was really magical!
We also offer: couch to 5K sessions for beginners, which start with a minute of walk-running intervals and then progress over eight weeks, 10K training programmes, and running technique training. Various other masterclasses are in the pipeline.
What is your ultimate goal as a running group?
This year, I’m aiming to get 1,000 mums running in Bristol – we already have nearly 600! More than anything, I’m trying to inspire in our mums a real love of and joy in running that has nothing to do with pace or distance. We mix in good quality training with fun ‘turn off your watch’ sessions, exploring the woods, or just checking out the wonderful sights of Bristol. Ultimately, if you are happy running, you will get so much more from it and carry on doing it!
Tell us about your association with the national campaign This Girl Can?
The Sports England campaign This Girl Can rolled out a local programme of engagement in various cities, including Bristol. Our first ever Couch to 5K group were invited to feature in the Bristol Girls Can campaign and Anneke, one of our runners, became the face of the campaign! They filmed one of our training sessions, which is now played on the giant screens in the centre of Bristol. A case study was written and was picked up by the local media. Images of Anneke were used on various outdoor media around the city. We were very proud to be part of such a wonderful campaign.
How many ladies are in the group and are you all mums?
We now have nearly 600 mums in the group! The majority are mums although it’s not a pre-requisite for joining. We also have lots of aunties and grandmas too!
Why did you choose our WR10K Bristol event?
Many of our mums have never done this type of race before and wanted to give it a go. The fact that it is women only was really reassuring for a lot of people and gave them the confidence to try something a bit different. We’re really looking forward to it!
We have a group of about 25 women running in the event, across both distances. Many of our mums have never done any off-road running and so this is an exciting new adventure for them. Lots of those running the 10K have only completed the Couch to 5K this year, so this will be a brilliant achievement.